Mets Drop Third In A Row; 5-1 Loss Leave Mets Under .500

You could have had a bad feeling about this one at old RFK Stadium in Washington DC as soon as the first inning.

In the first inning the Mets had bases loaded with only one out for Cliff Floyd who is hitting .359 and is red-hot on a 14 game hitting streak. With Livan Hernandez struggling early as he did in his last outing, Floyd hit a deep fly on a slow curve that just missed being a grandslam and instead turned into a sacrifice fly which scored Matsui to make it 1-0 but spared Hernandez a blowout first inning. Rather than capitalising on their base runners, the Mets ended the inning with a disappointing 1-0 lead.

It was a trend the Mets would follow all night as they hit just one single in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. In fact, the Mets put at least one runner in scoring position in six innings with similarly miserable and unproductive results and that one run lead held only until the 4th inning when Jose Guillen hit a two out line drive homer to left field to tie the score.

Seo didn't pitch poorly, save for a few costly mistakes that led to a pair of empty-bases homers by Schneider and none other than Livan Hernandez himself on a line driver to left to make it 3-1. Obviously, on a listless night for clutcheless Mets hitters, these three mistakes were enough to bury Seo for his first loss against one win although on the bright side, his ERA is still only 3.27.

For the night, Hernandez, ever the Nats workhorse, threw 130 pitches through 8 innings of work, surrendered 9 hits, only two of which were for extra bases (two doubles for the suddenly hot hitting David Wright who raised his season average to .301) and struck out five in raising his record to 3-2 and lifting the Nats above the Mets in the NL East.

For the game, the Mets managed only 1 run off 10 hits, an error and 2 walks whilst the Nats scored all five of their runs on a mere five hits and two walks.

In pitching news, Kris Benson began his rehab with a sparkling 3 inning outing in which he allowed only one runner, a hit batsmen, gave up no hits, no walks and struck out 4.

However, as was part of their problem earlier in the season, the Mets need more clutch hits and with Reyes having gone 1-5 last night, his average dropped to .267 making his lack of walks as a leadoff hitter particularly daunting. Even Kaz Matsui, at .280, is a better bet for getting on base than Reyes so far this season.

Cliff Floyd is now hitting at a .373 clip while raising his hitting streak to 15 games while cleanup hitter Mike Piazza continues his depressing downslide with a .222 batting average following an 0 for 4 evening.

The Mets now stand at 11-12 with one game left in April to at least exit the cruelest month with a .500 record.

The Nats are 12-11 and have guaranteed themselves at least a .500 April during which time they spent more days in first place than they did in 10 years as a Washington Senators franchise.

Tonight, Victor Zambrano gets another chance to disappoint and befuddle taking the mound for the Mets against Zach Day.


Glavine Pounded By Former Employer Yet Again

Tom Glavine spent 16 seasons pitching for the Atlanta Braves and sometimes it seems as though he still is, even though he joined the Mets a little over two seasons ago.

As is his consuetude, Glavine faced the Braves last night and was knocked about even worse than he is by other opponents, this time getting knocked out after just 4 2/3 innings Wednesday at Shea Stadium, allowing seven runs and 12 hits -- including back-to-back home runs by Eddie Perez and Wilson Betemit -- en route to an 8-4 Mets defeat.

On the other hand, former Met pitcher Mike Hampton had no such trouble against his former teammates, improving his record to 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA for the season and throwing seven admirable innings against them.

Mr Glavine, the prize free agent signing of the Mets winter of 2002 is now 1-7 against his former team with an earned run average of 9.36 and the question begs to be asked: Whose side are you on anyway?

Others might say that yesterday's performance was vintage 2005 Glavine, that he is giving his former team no special favours. After all, even before yesterday's game he was still an unimpressive 1-2 in 4 starts over 22.2 innings pitched and had given up 21 hits, 11 earned runs, had walked 13 and struck out only 16. As frightening as it sounds, he's been no more consistent and no better than Aaron Heilman or Victor Zambrano this season.

His current ERA of 5.67 is the worst of all Mets starting pitchers, behind even Victor Zambrano's 5.64 and second worst on the entire staff, better only than Mike Matthews' tumescent 10.80 ERA. In fact, Glavine's current ERA is ranked 151st in the National League.

When asked if he might hold Glavine out of future starts against Atlanta, as the previous manager, Art Howe, did at the end of 2003, Randolph did not seem ready to concede a loss in every Glavine start against the Braves just yet. "The Braves have a nice approach to him," he said. "They know what he does. But I don't analyze it too much. I don't ever get concerned about a guy like this."

Hmmm. Since last season's All Star game, Glavine is now 5-10 with a 4.95 ERA and has walked 53 whilst striking out only 58. It's no wonder he's going ballistic over balls and strikes calls these days and perhaps a better indication that Tom Glavine's glory days are too far behind him to see more than the occasional glimmer any more.


Last night's game, which resulted in the first home series loss for the Mets this season, offered little in the way of hope, from Jose Reyes' leadoff strikeout to Carlos Beltran's 9th inning ground out to end the game.

There was that one pitch of excitement in the 2nd when Mientkiewicz homered to right field and gave the Mets a 1-0 lead which the Braves answered in the 3rd with two runs of their own. There was Cliff Floyd's two run homer also to right field that narrowed the deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the 4th. There was the bottom of the 8th, when down 8-3 and Braves starter Hampton had been relieved by Sosa. Piazza and Floyd both walked and David Wright singled to load the bases with none out and a passed ball saw Piazza score to make it 8-4 but then Mientkiewicz flew out and Victor Diaz concluded an 0 for 4 day by grounded into a rally-killing double play.

After the Glavine debacle the Mets bullpen did an admirable job as Aybar, Bell, Hernandez and Looper combined to surrender only a run in 4 2/3 innings of work and giving up only one hit as Bell gave up his first earned run of his brief season.


Newsday's Mark Hermann makes a valid point on the praises sung by the Braves of the Mets these days as the Braves carry on beating them.

"Consider this a little growth chart for these New Mets. Consider it a reminder that they won't really be "new" unless they can get past the Braves, the Moby Dick to their Captain Ahab. Beating them in the standings would really be new, since the Mets never have done that since Atlanta moved into their division 11 years ago.

The teams have played each other six times this year and the Braves have won four. They always find a way, as they did Tuesday against Pedro Martinez. Yesterday, they throttled Glavine, as they have ever since he left Atlanta for New York.

No matter who they lose or who they get, the Braves just have a certain something that the Mets don't have.

All of which is not to say the Mets should be discouraged. They still have new energy and good karma. They still have a better record than the Yankees.

But it won't mean much until they have a better record than the Braves."

As they won't face the Braves again until the 23rd of May, for almost a month anyway we can surrender to the apparition that we are playing on a level field. The Mets are now back to .500 for the season with an 11-11 record, two full games behind the Florida Marlins and tied for third with the Nats, one game ahead of the bottom-dwelling Phillies.

In the battle for third place, the Mets have the Nats in DC to struggle mightily against after today's off day. Florida will be at Philadelphia and Atlanta travels to St Louis to face the NL Central-leading Cardinals who have won 6 game in a row.


Friday, April 29, 2005: Jae Seo (1-0, 1.50) @ Livan Hernandez (2-2, 5.34)
Saturday, April 30, 2005: Victor Zambrano (1-1, 3.71) @ Zach Day (1-1, 5.09)
Sunday, May 1, 2005: Aaron Heilman (1-2, 6.00) @ John Patterson (1-1, 0.86)


Pedro-Smoltzy II - Braves Win 4-3

There were the inevitable comparisons to their first matchup of the season when the Mets had started their season by losing five in a row and Smoltz was burning through the Mets order, striking out 15 and Pedro was matching him out for out with a two hitter before the Mets exploded in that fateful 8th inning.

It wasn't quite as exciting, the stakes weren't quite as high and the venue had moved from Turner Field to Shea but after allowing three quick runs in the top of the first, for the fourth time in his five starts and the 15th time in the Mets' 21 games, the opposing team scored in the first inning and the Braves went on to win this 4-3.

The drama came eventually but not until a 9th inning rally when down 4-1.

Eric Valent, the man who has struck out in 50% of his at-bats this season, led off the ninth inning rally with a two-out double off the Braves not so imposing closer, Dan Kolb. Mets pinch-hitters were three for three last night and Valent raised his batting average to .150 on the season.

Jose Reyes, the original "attack hitter" himself with no walks in 20 games this season so far, brought Valent home with another double. This led to Mike Piazza, getting his twice-weekly day off, pinch-hitting for Kaz Matsui and lashed an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-3.

Carlos Beltran followed him with his only hit of the night before Braves manager Bobby Cox finally wised up and replaced Kolb with the lefthanded John Foster to face Floyd, who already had two hits and was the Mets leading RBI man. You could almost sense a dramatic 9th inning comeback. That's how it is with these Mets. They don't quit and it is no longer patently absurd to imagine them having the guts and stamina to produce precisely this kind of rally that keeps the fans from streaming out to the 7 train early. But, with the count 1-and-0, Floyd just missed a fastball and popped up to end the game.

Willie keeps insisting that Ramon Castro is not going to be Pedro's personal catcher but the signs are growing that he is indeed and who can blame Pedro after all? Last night it was an alleged bruised base of the left thumb that kept Piazza out and Piazza had removed himself from the lineup last week when Martinez pitched in Florida, citing soreness. Castro also started Martinez's start, opposite Smoltz, in Atlanta on April 10. So there you go. Coincidental soreness and injuries or Pedro putting his foot down about having a designated stolen base every time he let a runner on board. It's a growing trend ladies and gentlemen and whilst pitchers like Heilman and Zambrano are not good enough to merit their own personal catcher, you can imagine that if Pedro has done it on the QT, how far will the jealous Glavine be from asking for the same?

To his credit, at least Piazza is starting to hit a little. His RBI single last night raised his average to .246 and his 12 RBIs are tied for second on the team behind Floyd's team-leading 15 in 16 games.


Heath Bell and Mike DeJean both had a scoreless inning of relief work. Despite some horrific performances from DeJean, Mike Matthews and Bradon Looper, the bullpen is shaping up better than expected with a collective ERA under 3.00 - they've pitched 53.1 innings of relief, have given up 59 hits, 26 earned runs, 25 walks and have struck out 48 batters. They've had six save opportunities and have blown three of them.


Royce Ring has Senator Al Leiter's old 22 number. Ring, just called up to the Mets after going up and down the ladder in an inconsistent season last year, credits pitching coach Rick Peterson with his resurgence for tweaking something in his delivery. Whatever it was, it seems to work. Ring's slider and two-seamer are sharper, complementing his changeup, and the new arm angle has added nastiness.


The kudos for the New Mets grow daily. Even Smoltzy had nice things to say about us after he'd limited us to a run and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings:

"They don't have the sense of the previous Mets' teams (ie; not quitters and somnambulists and whingers) -- They just have something different. They're going to be a team that's going to be there all year, I can promise you that."


This afternoon's game could be another potential pitching duel, on paper anyway. Former Met Mike Hampton faces former Brave Tom Glavine.

Mike Hampton (2-0, 1.17) has allowed just five earned runs in his past 48 innings dating back to the beginning of September. Opponents are hitting just .224 against him. He is 14-11 with a 2.86 ERA in his career at Shea Stadium.

But Glavine of course, has been insufferably bad against his old mates. He beat his former team once last season, but lost to the Braves in his other two starts, badly.

Last night's loss dropped the Mets to 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins and a game behind the Braves in the NL East, tied with the Nats at 11-10.


Shea Heilman Where The Loser Comes Home To Roost

You might not be able to say much about how he pitches on the road, but for two consecutive games at Shea, Heilman has seemed right at home. In 16 innings worth of unpredictable fun at Shea, Heilman (2-2) has allowed a mere run, three hits and four walks, striking out 12, to laud a 0.56 ERA. Pedro Country.

But on the road, this guy stinks so far, going 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in two starts.

Heilman went through a stretch last night where he retired 15 straight batters and it stayed 1-0 until the sixth when Mike Piazza, who broke out of a slump with three hits, doubled home Kaz Matsui with the tying run. Then Cliff Floyd hit his fifth home run of the season, stretching his hitting streak to 12 games as the Mets hung on to win last night 5-4.

The Mets have now won 11 of their last 15 games and are just a half-game behind the idle Marlins for the top spot in the National League East, tied with the Braves.

But the win was almost lost when Roberto Hernandez, unscored upon in his first eight appearances, allowed a pinch-hit, two-run home run by Pete Orr in the eighth and again in the ninth, when Wright was guilty of one misplay and an error.

The Mets designating Mike Matthews for assignment last night and recalling lefty Royce Ring. Matthews, a lefty acquired in the offseason, had posted a 10.80 ERA in six games. Entering last night, Ring owned a 1.00 ERA in nine innings at Norfolk.

Piazza has thrown out just one of 21 runners attempting to steal this season.

Tonight Pedro faces Smoltz in a rematch.


Loss Of Sweep Keep Mets From First, 11-4

Not to get greedy or anything but had the Mets managed to win last night with Victor "I'm Not Kazmir" Zambrano against the Nationals, they'd have a place in a three-way tie with the Braves and Marlins this morning.

Instead, Zambrano had one of those games we will all look back on with fondness, the kind of pitching performance that leaves you searching for antonyms to superlative like profane, inadequate, deficient. Instead of brilliantly forcing us to forget that the Mets have one ace and one Hall of Famer who can occasionally pitch like an ace, he reminded us of our Achilles heel as he was ripped for eight runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings and virtually knocked the Mets out of the game before it really started. He walked three and hit two batters and the Mets lost for just the fourth time in 14 games. Certainly no irony in the fact that yesterday was "Sanitation Day" in New York.

Instead, the Mets remain a game behind first place, behind the Marlins and Braves with the Braves coming to town and (gulp) Aaron Heilman taking the mound for the Mets in the opening game of the series.

On the other hand, he now has 2 hits in 10 at-bats to give him the same .200 batting average as Mike Piazza.

Oh yeah, and for those of you still keeping score at home, Zambrano is 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA and Kazmir, a 21-year-old lefthander, is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA for the Devil Rays. Kazmir limited the hard-hitting Red Sox to one run in seven innings Friday. He has given up 19 hits in 22 IP and Zambrano has given up 31 hits in 22.1 IP. Zambrano also leads in walks (14-12) and strikeouts (19-12).

One interesting note having nothing to do with the Mets frail and pallid pitching is that Pedro and Ishii are 1 and 3 in opposing batting average in the Major Leagues - teams are hitting .113 against Pedro and only .161 against Ishii.

It might also be heartening to note that AA Binghampton Mets ace Brian Bannister (4-0) struck out three and allowed four hits in five innings the other night. He did allow his first earned run of the season in the third inning. It was the first earned run Bannister had allowed since Sept. 1 of last season -- a streak of 25 innings.

But down 3-0 after the first inning last night, the Mets tried to roar back as Nats staff ace Livian Hernandez proceeded to give all three runs back on Mike Piazza's bases-loaded double in the first. They loaded the bases once more only to see Victor Diaz ground into a rally-killing double play.

Having thrown 31 pitches and walked two by the time he returned to the dugout, Hernandez (2-2) looked like he might be in for a long day but the right-hander responded against hte Mets with six shutout innings after that, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced to earn his first victory since their first game at RFK Stadium 10 days before.

K News: Carlos Beltran still leads the Mets in strikeouts with 18 in 19 games just ahead of Reyes (15) and Victor Diaz and David Wright with 14. Oddly enough, despite his weak average, Piazza has struck out only 4 times in 60 at-bats. Eric Valent has 10 strikeouts in only 19 at-bats.

Pitching for the Stinkin' Braves:

LHP Horacio Ramirez
• 1-1, 3.78 ERA in 2005
• 0-0, 3.86 ERA vs. NYM in 2005

Here you can see how the Mets hit against lefties so far this season. Might be a good night to give Piazza another "rest" and start Castro...

Pitching for the Mets:

RHP Aaron Heilman
• 1-2, 6.00 ERA in 2005
• 0-1, 9.00 ERA vs. ATL in 2005

Tomorrow, Pedro Martinez (2-0, 2.17) faces John Smoltz (0-3, 4.30) in a matchup of future Hall of Famers, and on Wednesday Tom Glavine (1-2, 3.97) duels Mike Hampton (2-0, 1.17).

The Mets won't have to set their sights too high to do better against the Braves than the last place Phillies did. They were outscored 21-3 and lost all three games.


Ever Seo Sweet: Mets top Nats 10-5

NB: Due to travel obligations, the summaries of Friday and Saturday's games against the Nats are necessarily short and sweet. We will return to the predictable ranting and arriving by Wednesday morning:

Saturday: Mets 10 Nats 5

With Kaz Ishii, the third Met starter of the season to enter the dark recesses of the disabled list, the Mets were swiftly running out of starting pitcher options.

Although his 0-0 record and 8.22 earned run average in three starts at AAA Norfolk would belie any chance in hell of success at the Major League level this season, Jae Seo proved the world wrong and saved the day yesterday for the Mets, pitching five scoreless innings before eventually allowing one run, six hits and no walks in six innings. With the unpredictable Ishii suffering from a strained muscle, Seo threw 79 pitches and 55 went for strikes in winning his first game of the season. Better still, he got to witness the spirit of the "New Mets":

"There are not super-huge differences that I've felt between the last two years and now," Seo said through an interpreter. "But one thing I can definitely notice is the team seems to stick together. There is some chemistry here and it seems like we're just looking to win. There are good things about this team."

The Mets are now 7-1 at home.

And maybe Cryin Mike Cameron better just stay on the disabled list because although he defence can be dodgy at times, Victor Diaz is simply eating MLB pitching up like candy. Yesterday he was 4 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs to raise his batting average to .362 and his OBA to .492, both of which are team highs for starters.

Mike Piazza continues to make his last season as a Met a very forgettable one, watching his batting average drop to .200 as he went 0 for 4 and came to bat with nine runners on base and knocked in NONE of them.

Hamstring Jose Reyes did not play yesterday, getting a day off along with Kaz Matsui. Both are expected to be back in the starting lineup for today's attempt to sweep the Nats.


WAS: RHP Livan Hernandez
• 1-2, 5.76 ERA in 2005
• 2-1, 2.05 ERA vs. NYM in 2004

NYM: RHP Victor Zambrano
• 1-1, 3.71 ERA in 2005
• Has never faced WAS


Friday: Mets 3 Nats 1

As usual, Tom Glavine , who was 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA last year against the Expos, surrendered only two hits and reaffirmed his place as the all-time wins leader against the Montreal-Washington franchise with his 28th. He actually as though he really does want to reach 300 victories before he retires at the age of 50 and behind seven innings of two-hit ball from the southpaw, the Mets beat the Nationals, 3-1, at Shea as Glavine picked up his first win in four tries this season.

The Washington Post notes that Glavine leaves Nats out in cold (and imagine, the Mets have an ace that a team is "relieved" not to have to face in Pedro:

"So it was Friday night at frigid Shea Stadium, where the ghost of Cy Young past spooked the Nationals, this time in the form of Mets left-hander Tom Glavine. His two Cy Youngs came in 1991 and '98, during his glory days with the Atlanta Braves, and he entered Friday without a win this season. Against the occasionally anemic Nationals, it didn't matter."

Opposing starters in Washington's losses have combined for a 1.61 ERA.

Glavine, Smoltz and Greg Maddux, what used to be the backbone of the Atlanta Braves' infamous pitching troika, are now 1-6 collectively with a 4.29 ERA and Glavine, obviously, is the first of the three to gain a victory. Smoltz is 0-3 although he's struck out 29 and walked only 5, has 4.56 ERA. And Maddux is 0-1 in 5 starts with a 4.50 ERA.

Roberto Hernandez plunked Tony Blanco with his first pitch of the eighth on the left shoulder blade. Entrusted with a two-run lead, he then surrendered a double to Brad Wilkerson that put two runners in scoring position and you could just hear Glavine's shoulders sag at the thought of a victory flying out the window. Hernandez answered by getting Cristian Guzman on a squibber in front of the plate that Mike Piazza pounced on. He then struck out Jose Vidro and got Jose Guillen to ground to second to hand the lead to Braden Looper.


Pedrorrific Lifts Mets Again - Leiter Crumples, 10-1

For the second time in six days, Pedro Martinez validated the front office decision to jettison Aging Al Leiter by outpitching him to give the Mets a victory. Imagine, after all, if the Marlins had Pedro and the Mets had been stuck with Senator Al. The mere thought induces nausea and vomitting.

Instead, our ace, who lifted us again after a loss and who did not have his own souvenir poncho night like Al Leiter did, (souvenir poncho??!) struck out eight and walked none, giving him 38 strikeouts and four walks in 29 innings. Just to underscore his control, whilst the rest of the Mets starting staff struggles to make 50% of their pitches for strikes, Pedro threw 88 pitches last night, 64 of them strikes in winning his second game of the season and lowering his ERA to 2.17.

On his souvenir poncho night, Leiter threw 82 pitches in only three innings of work, 42 for strikes, gave up 5 walks, eight earned runs, hit a batter and saw his ERA for the season rise to 5.66 and his record descend down to 0-2. It's almost as though he belongs on the Mets staff with that kind of control.

The other Marlin who was almost a Met, Carlos Delgado, went 0-2 with a strikeout and so far this season has had 17 at-bats against the Mets. In those 17 at-bats, he's had 4 hits for a .235 batting average, zero extra base hits and one RBI. He's hitting .354 against the rest of the NL.

Perhaps even more impressive or at least unexpected was the 7 run outburst in the second inning, the 10 hits and 10 runs that all came against Marlin pitching, which had given up no more than four runs in any of their first 15 games. The Mets knocked the Marlin's team ERA from 1.88 to 2.38, still the best in the major leagues. The Marlins staff, with the help of Senator Al of course, gave up a season-high nine walks, leading to five runs. The Mets’ second-inning eruption included three walks, two scratch hits, two other singles, two stolen bases by Cliff Floyd and Mientkiewicz’s slam.

Doug Mientkiewicz grand slam was his first career grand slam and his first grandslam in any competition since he hit one for the United States against South Korea in the 2000 Olympics. Here is the boxscore to that game which is interesting in that it allows you to see that some of his teammates were Adam Everett, Roy Oswalt, Ben Sheets, Pat Borders and Brad Wilkerson. In fact, Mank hit another game-winning homer against South Korea in the semi-finals as well. Not that it has anything to do with last night's game, just a little historical Olympic baseball tidbit.

The bullpen was aces again last night as Mike DeJean pitched a scoreless 8th and Heath Bell pitched a scoreless 9th. Wonder how long before the Free Heath Bell clan starts up a Heath Bell For Closer movement. It's worth noting that the last time Bradon Looper was demoted from closer to set-up man in the middle of the season was two years ago when he was the Marlin's closer and as we've noted herein before, that was the year the Marlins won the World Championship so, let's keep our fingers crossed.

Good News, Bad News Pitchers

It might not be too longer before we have a new pitcher to drive us mad with inconsistency. After warming up for 10 minutes, a process that included some long tossing, Benson threw 37 pitches -- 25 from the stretch, 12 with a windup -- without pain off the bullpen mound at Dolphins Stadium. He's still got a ways to go; another game-situation workout of 45-50 pitches and then real games of 3,4 and/or 5 inning outings before he will be ready to actually take the mound for the Mets in real life and frankly, who knows where he'll be by then having missed all of the season to date, but at least it's another live arm and if he's anywhere near Spring Training form, a live arm that can pitch victories.

On the other hand, Kaz Ishii cut short his throwing session on the side Thursday because of soreness on his left side. He’ll be examined by a doctor Friday but said he might still make his scheduled start Saturday against Washington.

If they start talking about just a "normal twinge" or other equally bromidic rubbish, watch out.


Tom Glavine (0-2, 5.17 ERA ) flew back to New York on Thursday night to be in position to open the Mets' three-game series against the tied-for-first-place Washington Nationals on Friday night. He'll face Esteban Loaiza (0-0, 4.58 ERA). It's the first time the Mets will face the Nationals. The Nats and Marlins are co-leaders of the NL East and the Braves, Mets and Phillies are all tied for third, one game back.


Heilman's Star Falls Again, Mets Lose 9-2

Well, it didn't take long for that bubble to burst, did it?

One start following a magnificent, if entirely unexpected one hit shutout at home against the Marlins, Mets starter Aaron Heilman looked more like himself facing the same Marlins in the Dolphins football stadium, giving up seven runs on 11 hits in a mere four innings, taxing the bullpen and taking a 9-2 loss on the chin.

It appears that the reason he's exasperated us all once again was because he abandoned his off-speed pitches and fed fastballs to a team that feasts on them. Pitching coach Rick Peterson, said: "His last outing was a recipe for success. But if you overuse one ingredient, it doesn't come out the same way. This is not the instructional league. It's the big leagues. His thought process tonight was not right."

Let me get this straight. You suck in virtually every major league outing, let's say something like a career record of 4-11 and a record of 1-6 on the road with some 7.00 plus sort of bloated ERA. You have one night of magical success which finally matches some of the expectations of your talent and what do you do? Do you follow the same recipe you used looking like an all-star or do you revert back to the recipe that puts you on the motorway to the minors?

How can his thought process not be right? What is there to think about? Catcher calls the pitches, you throw them, right? Is Heilman audibling on the mound? How can he "abandon" his off-speed pitches? Some monkey is telling him what to throw, aren't they? Peterson to Piazza to Heilman, right?

And even if he was calling his own pitches, he's had plenty of time off in between starts to concentrate, so how can his thought process not be right?

Over here, from A Bunker's favourite chair, we call it reverting back to form.

There's no mystery in Heilman's disasterous pitching performance, that is his modus operandi. The only mystery was how in the world he managed to toss a one-hitter against these Marlins, who have now won four straight and co-hold first place in the NL East with the Nats, in the first place. THAT is where we should send out Leonard Nimoy and his in search of crew. The galactic mystery of the Aaron Heilman promise.

Other than Heilman's return to the mediocrity of the Aaron Heilman world, there really wasn't much to tell about this game. When you fall behind 9-0 to the Marlins with Josh Beckett on the mound, the game is virtually over before it starts. It wasn't interesting, not even when they managed to squirt out 2 runs in the fifth and piss Beckett off even more when Victor Diaz tripled to score David Wright with none out and thinking the shot to the deepest part of the ballpark was gone, Diaz reacted at the plate as if he had homered. Beckett took exception to that.

"I wasn't real pleased with the way he reacted," Beckett said. "My opinion is if you have less home runs than I have career wins, you can't do that." Ooof.

All told, Beckett (3-1) allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings. His ERA rose to 1.00, and Florida's team ERA climbed to 1.88, still best in the major leagues.

The Marlins' awakening offense has coincided with a lineup shuffle made by manager Jack McKeon on Sunday in New York. He promoted Encarnacion from the seventh hole to the fifth spot in the order. Since then, the Marlins have scored 29 runs, while Encarnacion has gone 8 for 17 with six runs and eight RBI.

Tonight, Pedro will take the mound with a growing need to save the day again. Earn his money. Once again he will face Al Leiter and this time he will be doing so on his regular four day rest.


To give you an idea of how liberal the 2005 All Star ballot is, Piazza, arguably the worst defensive catcher in baseball and David Wright, both of them hitting .234 so far this season and Cryin Mike Cameron, who still hasn't played a game, join Hamstring Jose, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd 2005 Major League All-Star Game.

So vote often and vote hard on the official online ballot


Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Boom boom boom boom
I'm gonna shoot you right down,
right offa your feet
Take you home with me,
put you in my house
Boom boom boom boom

--Johnny Lee Hooker, Boom Boom.

It might go down as the game that turned into batting practice.

Facing a Phillies pitcher making his first start of the season, the Mets had their greatest run production since 1989. Every starting position player had a hit. The team that had hit 12 home runs in its first 13 games had a club-record seven on Tuesday, including a grand slam by David Wright, and buried the Phillies, 16-4.

Was it only yesterday that Carlos Beltran was bemoaning the pitching in the NL East?

"This is a tough division," Beltran said the Mets' bloodless performance in the series opener Monday night. "I think it is the toughest division in baseball. Every day you face not only a good pitcher, but an ace. Every day you really have to prepare yourself mentally and do an adjustment every at-bat because it's quite a challenge."

Excluding Vincent Padilla and Gavin Floyd, apparently.

Jose Reyes led off the game with a home run that fell a couple rows deep along the left-field line - the type of home run that gave the ballpark its reputation as a bandbox but a homer nonetheless.

Mike Piazza hit the second-longest home run in the two-year history of this stadium, 471 feet onto the outfield concourse. David Wright hit the next pitch for his first career grand slam. Reyes and Diaz both had a pair of homers to became the first Mets to hit two homers each in the same game since Butch Huskey and Bernard Gilkey did it in 1997.

Reyes, Diaz, Piazza and Mientkiewicz are all tied with 6 RBIS on the season for the Mets. Piazza's batting average is now up to .250 and rising fast.

Here we see Reyes and the Kaz Man were all smiles.

Of course, the offensive barrage kept Victor Zambrano off the hook. Even Zambrano managed to hit a triple in last night's game but frankly, his control was still dodgy. He threw 96 pitches, 57 for strikes, slightly better than Glavine and Ishii managed the last two games but still nothing pinpoint about it. He also had a wild pitch and three walks, six hits and two earned runs over 6 inning and did a swell job pitching out of two bases loaded jams in the first and second innings. His ERA is still a respectable 3.71.

The Mets bullpen pitched three scoreless innings.

For the Phillies, Vicente Padilla, who gave up five home runs in the first 17 batters he faced, was pulled after his 18th batter, then watched Gavin Floyd give up a home run to the first batter he faced. Padilla and Floyd allowed eight runs apiece and combined to throw 140 pitches in six innings, prompting E-A-G-L-E-S chants among the crowd of 28,063.

As Padilla's second inning of work came to a close, catcher Mike Lieberthal received an instruction he had never gotten from the right-hander before.

"He told me to start calling his breaking balls and changeup more," said Lieberthal. "After the first couple of innings his velocity went down. He didn't feel very confident in his fastball."

Would you?

Not to rock the boat and I've already made issue yesterday of the madness of promoting Cryin Mike Cameron and demoting Victor Diaz but with the way Diaz is hitting, you might think he'd make an ideal leadoff hitter.

From the Don't Fix It If It Ain't Broke Dept: Jose Reyes' homer was his third of the season but as a leadoff hitter he also has 12 strikeouts and zero walks in 63 at-bats. His batting average and OBA are both .286 - and he's 3 for 4 in stealing bases.

Conversely, Victor Diaz, who also has 3 homers on the season, has walked 7 times and struck out 11, has a .452 OBA the highest on the team, and is two for two in stolen bases.

Wonder how the lineup might work with Diaz leading off instead of Reyes and having Reyes bat 2nd? Of course you lose a little flexibility with the right handed Diaz compared to the switch-hitting Reyes but if you've got Reyes hitting second followed by Beltran, Piazza, Floyd, Mank, Wright and the Kaz Man hitting eighth, you've still got a righty, switch hitter, switch hitter, righty, lefty, lefty, righty and switch hitter through the lineup leading up to the pitcher. Despite last night's game, the hitting is still a problem so far this season and once last night's euphoria wears off, the hitting still has to be addressed. Especially with such a shakey starting rotation behind Pedro capable of surrendering 5 or 6 runs a game.

The Mets are hitting .311 with 5 homers against lefties so far this season and .232 with 7 homers against righties.

Good news for the Free Heath Bell clans sprouting up all over the internet: he's finally free!

Felix Heredia on the 15-day disabled list and Bell was brought up to replace him. He hadn't allowed a hit or a walk and had struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings, converting three save opportunities with Norfolk after he allowed just 12 baserunners and struck out 13 batters in 13 2/3 innings in Spring Training.

He pitched a perfect 9th inning last night, joining Koo and Aybar in a perfect bullpen outing last night.

The Mets will now travel to Miami for another quick two-game set. Aaron Heilman will start for the Mets on Wednesday in Florida

New York Mets @ Florida Marlins
Wednesday, April 20: Aaron Heilman (0-0) @ Josh Beckett (2-1, 0.45)
Thursday, April 21: Pedro Martinez (1-0) @ Al Leiter (0-1, 2.55)

Washington Nationals @ New York Mets
Friday, April 22: Esteban Loaiza (0-0, 4.58) @ Tom Glavine (0-2, 5.17)
Saturday, April 23: Tomo Ohka (0-0, 4.50) @ Kaz Ishii (0-1, 3.29)
Sunday, April 24: Livan Hernandez (1-1, 4.50) @ Victor Zambrano (0-1, 4.09)

via Mets Daily.

Kris Benson, on the disabled list with a strained right pectoral muscle, will throw off a mound on Thursday in Miami.

The Marlins and Nationals remained tied for first in the NL East with the Mets, Braves and Phillies all tied, one game back. The Braves are at Washington and the Phillies will host the Rockies.

Future Pitchers Association

A few nights after Brian Bannister won his third game of the season for AA Binghamton Mets, giving him 16.1 IP, only 8 hits 0 earned runs allowed, 23 Ks and only 4 BBs on the season and after Gabby Hernandez, the third-round draft pick last June, threw five no-hit innings for Class A Hagerstown Sunday, the real future superstar pitcher Yousmeiro Petit had his worst outing in three starts this season and failed to get out of the fourth inning as the Binghamton Mets lost, 5-4, to the Portland Sea Dogs Tuesday night.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Ishii

"I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse." - Jekyll, highlighting his lack of control over Hyde in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

He had us all fooled last week after he matched Roger Clemens virtually pitch for pitch in a brilliant outing. Where was the evil Ishii who had no pitch control? Left behind after he stunk up Cincinnati? Where was the man who never met a base on balls he didn't like? Had the masterful mind of Coach Peterson tamed him? Did the Mets land the steal of the season getting him for their backup catcher?

Well, at least until his next start, we can pack the bandwagon back in mothballs for Ishii was simply atrocious last night in giving us a repugnant sample of what Dodger fans went through for the past two seasons. And it's not like he eased us into it. After a leadoff single, he stunk right out of the gate, throwing 11 consecutive balls in the first inning, walking two batters on four pitches and going 3-0 on a third. He finished with six walks in five innings and when he faced the other teams pitcher in Randy Wolf, he threw a ball over Wolf's head and walked him!

Ohhhhh, bad Ishii.

"It is weird," Mets manager Willie Randolph understated of Ishii. "It seemed like a record skipping. He couldn't hit that spot." Or that one, or that one, or the other one. Baddabing. Baddabang.

In the end, after the smoke had finally cleared, it was yet another bad beginning coupled with Met futility with their bats. The Mets after all, are notorious slow starters. They have been outscored 16-4 in the opening inning this season.

But it wasn't all as bad as it seemed. At least not in the ahem, right perspective. For the night Ishii threw 95 pitches, 50 of them for strikes. In the context of the Mets pitching staff outside of Pedro, this actually isn't as bad as it seems. In Sunday's loss, Tom Glavine threw 96 pitches and only 52 of them were for strikes and if you're matching a potential Hall of Fame pitcher in your strikes to ball ration either you're doing well or that potential Hall of Fame pitcher is on the shores of washed up or, even more intriguiing perhaps, your guru pitching coach isn't really the genius everyone makes him out to be. At least Ishii took his bad outing like a man instead of whingeing about the strike zone or poorly called balls and strikes, like Glavine.

Just across the diamond, if they weren't so unappealing, you might salivate at the thought of the Phillies pitching staff who have not walked a batter in 33 innings and have allowed just 15 in 13 games.

And whilst Ishii was all over the map, you have to wonder when Randy Wolf suddenly became Cy Young. Wolf logged eight scoreless innings against these somewhat less-than-mighty Mets who even with Floyd and Piazza back in the lineup seemed rather powerless until Wolf obviously began to tire in the 9th.

Cliff Floyd, playing his first game since straining his ribcage last week, turned on a 3-0 pitch from reliever Tim Worrell and clocked a three-run homer to bring the Mets within a run in the 9th but it proved to be one run short in a rally that yet again evoked all the power and potential of a fierce Mets comeback and the Phillies took the opener 5-4.

Wolf (1-1) had never beaten the Mets in nine prior home appearances yet through eight innings he allowed only six singles, did not walk a batter and struck out five.

As if the impossible were suddenly plausible, Felix Heredia came in to relieve Ishii in the 6th and did even worse. He threw three balls that went to the backstop, including two that sailed over Bobby Abreu's head. But unlike Ishii, he had somewhat of an excuse, leaving the game after 11 pitches with weakness at the base of his left thumb. He had experienced numbness in his pitching hand in spring training but said this new problem - a weakness in the base of his thumb - was unrelated to the earlier troubles. He will be sent back to New York Tuesday for further evaluation.


On the bright side:

Kaz Matsui not only didn't commit an error at second, but he went 2 for 4 at the plate so perhaps his eyesight is coming back.

Matthews and DeJean of all people, pitched scoreless innings in relief.

Mike Piazza, for all his flaws doesn't look as bad out there as the Phillies Jim Thome, who was swinging at pitches around his head and is batting only .213 for the season. In fact, Piazza raised his average to .231 with a pair of singles and was even capable of making a little joke out of the wildness of Ishii and Heredia, noting that maybe he should move back to first. Haha. That IS a good one, Mike. Wouldn't it be nice to see throws to first sailing past you into the stands instead of merely to the backstop? Ho ho. Ha ha.


Hard to believe the rumours that the Mets are considering sending Diaz to the minors when Cryin Mike Cameron returns.

"I still think he needs to play every day," Manager Willie said of Diaz's possible demise. Perhaps so, but when half the team struggles to hit, it doesn't seem logical to demote the one guy who is hitting the best. Diaz is hitting .328 on the season so far. Cliff Floyd is the only other regular hitting over .300.

Last night Diaz doubled with one out in the eighth inning to become the first Met runner to get past first base all game. But then, after Cairo hit a fly to center, Diaz, thinking there were two outs, ran right past third base coach Manny Acta and was doubled off second base. The kind of baserunning faults you can't have when you barely get any baserunners all game. Then again, we still haven't forgiven Mr Acta for almost blowing it for the Mets in their 6th game of the season.


Beltran had his 1,000th career hit, driving home a run with a single in the ninth.


Tonight, as if last night weren't painful enough, the OTHER Mets pitcher who never met a base on balls he didn't like, Victor Zambrano (0-1), will face Vicente Padilla who is to make his first appearance of the season Tuesday. He had been assigned to the disabled list because of bicep tendinitis but he has beaten the Mets seven times in nine starts, more than another other team he has pitched against. Shouldn't be too hard to write the script for this one. Just cut and paste last night's outing.


Before their game against the Phillies on Monday night, the Mets' bullpen had the most victories in the National League with four. Their starters had two, the second fewest.


End of the Road: Mets Finally Lose Another

We all knew the Mets would lose again this season. There were a few spoofing "157-5" signs out at Shea on Saturday but six straight victories was a nice run, the perfect antidote for an 0-5 beginning and a portent of good things to come this season. It couldn't last forever and yesterday, AJ Burnett and the Florida Marlins proved that with a 5-2 victory, the first loss at Shea this season for the Mets.

Of course, it wasn't just Burnett's four hitter and or his second straight complete game for the Fish that did the Mets in. Most of us probably imagined a meltdown by Zambrano or an 8 walk outing by Ishii or even a typical Heilman outing would do us in but yesterday it was a series of events and a broken down lineup that did the Mets in.

Miracles cannot be expected for long with a lineup that has Doug Mientkiewicz batting cleanup. But with Cliff Floyd still out with a nagging rib problem and Mike Piazza begging off after a day game followed a night game and was followed by another day game (old knees, bum bat, wistful arm, the usual excuses), there really wasn't anyone else capable.

Tom Glavine had another suspect outing. When you walk four and surrender six hits and three runs over 96 pitches and 6 innings and your second baseman allows two grounders to roll past him and makes a bad throw to first to ruin a double play all in one inning in some sort of strange Scratched Cornea Sleeping Fielder third inning outtakes in the form of Kaz Matsui, victory will be an uphill battle. The Mets have already won several uphill battles but yesterday it was just a little too much.

The Kaz Man's battles at second base were reminiscent of his 24 errors at shortstop last season and naturally, the fans at Shea were quick to let him know, by chanting for Miguel Cairo and booing Matsui, that the grace period for prolonged lapses of fielding competence expired last season. Even though none of Matsui's failings were officially ruled as errors.

And although we're sad to see the winning streak go, there will be hopefully be plenty more of them this season and as a consolation prize, although the sweep was prevented, the Mets still took two out of three from the pitching powerful Marlins and avoided any embarassing performances from Carlos Delgado, like a game-winning homer or a grandslam. If anything, the Mets would look happy not having signed him this winter.

As for the absences in the lineup, we know Cliff Floyd is as fragile as a rice paper. We know Piazza needs one out of every three games off. We also know Hamstring Jose's illustrious past with the DL. Injuries will be a part of this season as they are for most teams but so far the Mets have survived despite losing 2 out of their 5 starting pitchers before the season even started and the key to this season being successful will be how well the substitutes step in for them.

Some days, it's just better to look on the bright side. Tonight's game against the Phillies should see the return of both Floyd and Piazza and more juice in the order. Koo, Aybar and Hernandez all had scoreless outings for the bullpen although Matthews gave up his first earned run of the season.

David Wright went 0 for 2 and saw his batting average drop to .189 but he had a brilliant 11 pitch at-bat against Burnett in the 2nd inning when he fouled off five or six pitches to eventually earn a walk.

Neither Beltran nor Reyes struck out although Kaz, in compliment to his dodgy fielding also had a cataracts sort of day at the plate as well, going 0 for 3 with a strikeout and dropping his batting average to .242.

Let's face it. The NL East is going to be a brutal series of difficult opponents. Even the Washington Nationals, everybody's preseason favourites to fall to the basement early on, are leading the division and scaring people into making this a five team race. Taking two of three from a nemesis like the Marlins is something to be happy about, not something to mourn. If they can do similar the rest of the month, by the month's end, they will certainly be in first place.

Tonight Kazuhisa Ishii (0-1, 3.29) will face the Phillies in Philadelphia against Randy Wolf (0-1, 6.00). Hopefully just the beginning of another winning streak.


Half A Dozen In A Row: Mets Over .500

For a half inning it looked like Game 11 of the season was going to play out like Game 1. Pedro Martinez would pitch a brilliant game and Bradon Looper, like magic, would make a Mets win disappear into thin air. The main difference this time was that the Mets had the last at bat.

Although Looper coughed up another fur ball from the pen, failing to convert a one run save opportunity, he padded his record to 1-1 after the relief catcher, defensive replacement but offensive whiz Ramon Castro, himself a former Marlin, singled in the bottom of the 9th with two outs to drive in Victor Diaz, another Met replacement player, and give the Mets a 4-3 victory, their sixth victory in a row and pushed them over .500 for the first time all season.

Mmmm, that sounds so good, I'll write it again: The Mets' sixth victory in a row.

The game started off promising. The most hatable Marlin, Carlos Delgado whose double error in the game previous cost the Marlins the game was in the lineup again and would go on to strike out three consecutive at-bats. And Al Leiter, old 6 inning Al, returned to Shea Stadium for the first time since he'd been ushered out the door by Omar Minaya and pitched a beautiful game only to see his 7 inning, 3 hit 1 run gem bested by Pedro, who also threw 7 innings and allowed only 3 hits but gave up two cheap runs while striking out 9. Pedro, the very man who'd helped start this victory run rolling last Sunday in Atlanta and who was making his first ever start at Shea in a Mets uniform. Including the three hits he allowed on Saturday, he has allowed eight in 22 innings, a .108 average.

Of these sixth consecutive victories, the Mets have come from behind in the late innings in four of them. You could make the argument that it's only a matter of the other teams' bullpen being worse than the bullpen of the Mets but that would be a difficult argument and the other fact is this Met team just seems to have enough confidence in themselves to know that no lead is insurmountable for them, nor apparently, against them.

After all, not many teams bounce back from losing their first five games of the season to winning their next six. The Mets were never as bad as their five straight losses indicated, nor are they as good as their six straight wins would indicate. Not yet anyway. The Looper situation is still an achilles heel but the bullpen itself seems to be less of a problem than originally imagined.

If you ignore the numbers of Looper and his set-up fraud Mike DeJean, the Mets bullpen have worked 15 1/3 innings, have allowed 14 hits and 5 earned runs (all off Many Aybar) for a very decent 3.14 ERA. Heredia, Hernandez, Koo and Matthews have not surrendered a single earned run between them but between Looper and DeJean you have 10 1/3 innings worked, 14 hits and 9 earned runs surrendered, an 8 walk to 4 strikeout ratio and two blown saves.

Were it not for the heroics of this never-say-die Met team, Looper would be on everyone's hit list today for blowing another save and undermining confidence yet again. After the Mets had used another 8th inning to take a lead, this time a one run margin, Looper came in for the 9th and promptly surrendered a lead off single to Miguel Cabrera and another single to Carlos Delgado who had whiffed unimpressively three straight times before facing Looper. After one fly out and a nice play at the plate to throw out Cabrera, he needed only one more out to seal the victory. He didn't get it until after Juan Encarnacion doubled off him, scoring Delgado and allowing the Marlins to tie the game.

Cryin' Mike Cameron replacememt Victor Diaz, is hitting .320 after yesterday's performance which saw his 8th inning single start a rally that allowed the Mets to go ahead, and his two out 9th inning double kept the Mets alive for Castro's heroics. Diaz has reached base in seven of his 13 most recent plate appearances -- four walks, two doubles and a single.

Meanwhile, although his RBI double in the 8th was the go-ahead run, Mike Piazza continues his rough beginning to the season. Although Pedro was credited with three wild pitches, it isn't hard to imagine that a different catcher might have been able to prevent them. He allowed another stolen base yesterday which makes 11 steals in 12 attempts over only 9 games that he's started. He still left two men on yesterday and is only hitting .200 on the season although his four doubles tie Jose Reyes for the team lead. We probably won't see him in this afternoon's game however, as he has more strikeouts (five) than hits (four) in 31 career at-bats against A.J. Burnett, the Marlins' Sunday starter. More and more often you have to wonder, with Castro hitting .400 as a late inning "defensive" replacement for Piazza, how much longer before replacement becomes permanent.

Overall, the Mets continue to strike out at an alarming rate. Carlos Beltran, whom nobody would bother to complain about otherwise, has 11 strikeouts and 14 hits. David Wright, struggling mightily at the plate in what may be a sophomore slump rather than a slow start, has struck out eight times and has only seven hits. Reyes has also struck out 11 times, Diaz has as many strikeouts (8) as hits, Eric Valent has nine strikeouts and only 2 hits, and Kaz Matsui, who may be back from his sore eye in today's game, has 6 strikeouts and 8 hits. As a team, the Mets have struck out 88 times in 11 games which, prior to yesterday's game, led the Major Leagues in futility.

Somehow, they win anyway. A week's worth of brilliant starting pitching, beginning with Pedro last Sunday and running through to Pedro's start yesterday. And a week's worth of timely hitting. The Mets may have been hitting only .267 going into yesterday's game, but something else to consider is that their pinch hitters are batting .417, 5 hits in 12 at-bats before yesterday, which dwarfs every other team's pinch-hit average. Clutch hitting is what is doing it for the Mets and clutch hitting is usually what does it for any team who wins World Championships.

Today, Tom Glavine pitches for the Mets, hoping to beat the Marlins after losing all four of his decisions against them last season. AJ Burnett has a 1-1 record with a 2.40 ERA so far this season and Glavine, perhaps shockingly, has proven to be the Mets worst starter so far, 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA.


10 Games Later It's All Even

"From day one, we have told everyone that Carlos would make his choice based on where he felt he had the best chance to win a World Series," wrote David Sloane, Delgado's agent, in an e-mail the day he signed with the Marlins. "I'm proud to say that is exactly why he made the choice he made."

For one game anyway, the Mets stuffed David Sloane's bravado and Carlos Delgado with it as they won the series opener at Shea 4-0. It was their fifth win in a row after five losses in a row, and another gem of a pitching performance, this time from an unexpected source in Aaron Heilman. They have now moved to within a game of first place and are no longer in last place. The Phillies are taking care of the basement.

Heilman tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Marlins and is now only four behind Tom Seaver for the team record of one-hit shutouts. Prior to last night's game it would have been hard to believe that of the two starters, he and Josh Beckett, who hadn't surrendered an earned run in his first two outings of the season, Heilman was the untouchable one. Heilman also struck out seven and walked three in what turned out to be the best performance of his career.

And Delgado, whom we may one day look back at in relief that he chose the Marlins, had a double error in the fifth inning that helped the Mets stake a 4-0 lead. After Miguel Cairo walked, Carlos Beltran grounded to Delgado, who booted the ball. Delgado retrieved it, then flipped a wild backhand to the base, allowing Cairo to reach third. Piazza, who entered batting .148 with one RBI, doubled both home and previously awesome starter Josh Beckett departed after the inning.

Also looking surprisingly alive for the Mets in addition to Heilman, was Mike Piazza who had a pair of hits and three RBIs. He also just missed his second homer of the year with a fly ball to the warning track against reliever Brian Moehler in the seventh.

Kaz Matsui's missed another game due to a scratch in his left eye related to his contact lenses. Through his translator, Matsui indicated the lens, which he wears overnight, is for treatment to improve his vision. Matsui has an astigmatism. And his vision, he said, has improved since he began wearing the lens before Spring Training.

The second game of the series features Pedro in his first outing as a Met at Shea against Al Leiter, back at Shea for the first time since he was declared persona non grata by the Mets front office and let loose for the Marlins.


Franco Finally Gives One Back, Mets Win 4th Straight

How many times over the last several seasons did we see the image of John Franco summoned from the bullpen and allow a groan to escape our pinched and disappointed lips?

Although the record would show that he only blew 64 saves for us officially in his career, that was only due to the fact that we had someone in the form of Armando Benitez to blow them for us on an even bigger and more catastrophic scale.

Suffice it to say that John Franco has cost us enough games and it's about time he started blowing some in our favour.

Last night he did just that. With the Mets trailing by two runs in the seventh inning lo and behold, in comes John Franco, with two Met runners on and only one Met out and by the time he left, the tying run had scored. Thanks Franco, you've finally done us more good than harm.

After pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson grounded to first base off Franco to score one run, José Reyes hit a dribbler up the third-base line. As Franco fielded the ball, he appeared to trip over his own spikes. And as he wound up to throw, he almost hit Houston third baseman Mike Lamb in the head. Franco was still holding the ball when the tying run scored.

"With his speed, I knew we couldn't get him," Franco said. "What can you do?"

When you're John Franco, obviously, nothing.

Oh so glad your ruining some other team's win now Johnny.


Our current nemesis, Automatic Mike Piazza, sinking faster than the Titanic, had another golden moment last night. Oh, he managed a hit at least, a single in the first inning to notch his batting average all the way up to .148 but when Houston's Willy Taveras broke from first base in the sixth inning, Piazza's throw to second base hit off the right side of the mound, nearly striking Zambrano's hip!

First it was one and two hopping throws to second, an automatic advanced base if he was behind the plate, now it's metastised into nearly injuring the starting pitcher with errant throws. Someone get this guy out of here? How long and hard did I pray for a trade to rid us of Mike Piazza this winter? Apparently, neither long enough nor hard enough and while he may prove and interesting foil this season, the traditional punching bag filled with the revulsion over the past several seasons when his selfishness and injuries got the best of him, it doesn't appear likely we'll be getting rid of him in the next few months.

While Piazza remains healthy enough to hurt us and almost hurt our starting pitchers when he isn't allowing every baserunner advance a base automatically, eventually, he will heat up, we hope, and make all this misery worth the wait.

Victor Zambrano pitched in and out of trouble, allowing nine hits and four walks in six inning. Even after the Astros managed only one run in a pair of bases-loaded situations.

Kazuo Matsui, whose cornea was slightly scratched by a contact lens he wore while sleeping Wednesday night.

Matsui's eyesight first became a topic of discussion last spring, when coaches worried that he was not seeing the catcher's signs from his position in the infield. He experimented with glasses and then discarded them because they were not comfortable on his face. Since February, he has worn corrective contacts to bed, but he needs to get re-fitted for a different pair. Matsui said that his vision was slightly blurred last night, which did not affect his hitting. But it did make him feel off-kilter in the field.

Now that we've nearly won them all back and huddle near .500 again, Josh Beckett will take the mound to face Aaron Heilman.


Extra! Extra! Mets Win 3rd In A Row

With the Mets having started the season by losing 5 ignominious games in a row you might not have imagined much more success with a pair of Cy Young winners in Smoltz and Clemens sandwiched around Andy Pettitte lined up to face them in the three games that were to follow.

Instead, like a determined and stone-jawed prizefighter knocked to the canvas with a hard right, the Mets have gotten back up quickly and started throwing a few punches of their own. They don't have their opponents on their heels yet, but the crowd is beginning to sense blood.

Ok, ok, hyperbole. But still, three wins in a row. Two 5 run 8th innings in a row and one 11th inning, game winning RBI single by Jose Reyes off former Met Dan Wheeler to get them there. Not to mention a superb complete game pitching performance by Pedro, a well-fought outing by Tom Glavine and a surprisingly excellent outing from Kaz Ishii, who matched Clemens goose egg for goose egg over seven innings and walked only three whilst striking out five.

Of course, much to our satisfaction and pleasure here at Archie Bunker's Army, Roger Clemens' 7 inning, 9 K, two hit shutout performance was flushed down the crapper as the Mets bullpen somehow managed to outpitch the Astros' bullpen. Clemens has not allowed a run to the Mets in 14 innings since joining the Astros and has allowed only one run in 14 innings this season.

Roberto Hernandez (one inning), Braden Looper (two innings) and winning pitcher Mike DeJean (one inning) allowed four base runners in four innings. Although Hernandez was no surprise now that he's turned into one of the more pleasantly stable members of the pen, Looper continues to chip away at his incomprehensible ERA and has now brought it down under double digits for the first time all season. DeJean gave up a hit in one inning's work to lower his ERA to 10.80.

The Piazza-Clemens non-rivalry continued to be the news of the day until the game but Piazza, who went 0-3 with a walk and is now hitting an enemic .130, appeared as docile as ever. Whilst Clemens continues to play at the level he has achieved his entire career, Piazza seems to weaken his legacy with each game he plays. He even one-hoppped another throw for old time's sake to second base in a pointless effort to get Astros CF Taveras stealing. As in all but one chance this season, Piazza failed to throw the runner out.

But all this aside of course, the important thing for the Mets is that they have regained whatever momentum lost by their laughable beginning of the season and despite this poor start, are only two games out of first place in the NL East. The have another game tonight against the Astros with the dreaded Victor Zambrano taking the mound for the Mets against the first non-Cy Young winner they've seen since Saturday night and will then face the Florida Marlins as the Braves go to Philly and the Nats host the Diamondbacks. One more victory before going into the buzzsaw of Marlin pitching (The D-Train has thrown two consecutive complete game shutouts to start the season and will probably not pitch against the Mets but the Marlins have thrown 4 complete games in their first 6 outings, something that hasn't been done since the 1992 Red Sox).

The Mets-Astros extra inning battle brought visions of these teams playing without a run for 22 ininngs almost 37 years ago to the day.

The Astros prevailed, 1-0, April 15, 1968, in Houston.

The Mets have played 206 1-0 games. They've won 105 of those and lose 101. The last time they played at least 11 innings and had it end 1-0 was Opening Day 1999 -- 14 innings against the Phillies with Alberto Castillo filling the role Reyes played Thursday.


Interesting to note that during the time alloted for batting practice yesterday, Willie had the infield boys taking infield drills. Attention to detail, nice one.

Also, Cliff Floyd was scratched from last night's starting lineup because of strained rib cage that is not thought to be serious. Valent started in LF in his place and Victor Diaz, hitting at a .312 clip, started in RF.

Marlon Anderson's pinch hit single last night gives him a .714 batting average on the season even though he was subsequently picked off first base.


Speed Kills Astros and Mets Manufacture Home Opener Victory 8-4

Having missed the first five innings of the game some 3,500 miles from Shea, I arrived home just in time for the absurdist Opening Day Batter's Eye Delay in the top of the 6th.

"The billboard is supposed to show advertisements between innings and go black when play resumes, serving as a functional batter's eye. But in the top of the sixth, the billboard became stuck on an advertisement for MSG and Fox Sports Net, which seemed fitting because a cable television dispute has blacked out Mets broadcasts in a significant part of the metropolitan area."

I've decided to just type as we go and will do so for the rest of the season whenever the Mets play a day game since, due to the 5 hour time difference between there and here, the day games are usually the only ones I normally have the chance to to live.

The only thing I knew by the time I'd settled in for the 14 minute delay whilst the Shea Stadium staff bumbled around trying to sort out the Batter's Eye, was the Astros were ahead of the Mets 1-0 (good sign) and Mike Piazza had actually thrown out a baserunner! (thanks to Whitney at Misery
Loves Company
for the heads up.)

Mets 6th, down 1-0 with memories of yesterday, manufactured 3 runs without any power in the 6th via a Cliff Floyd single and David Wright single, followed by sacrifice bunt by Mientkiewicz (hereinafter known as simply "Mank" for the purposes of brevity). A misplayed basehit by Jason Lane saw Victor Diaz get on base and drive Floyd in on Pettite's 100th pitch. Cairo pinchhitting for Glavine delivers an RBI single scoring Wright. Then, Diaz takes off for third on an expected two out stolen base attempt and delivers. Reyes K's to make it two outs and the Kaz Man, everybody's Game Hero, lays down a beautiful drag bunt single to score Diaz who wouldn't have scored without stolen third a few plays before. Aggressive baserunning and speed. Good to see and fortunately, not limited to Reyes. Inning ends, Mets 3 Astros 1.

Glavine follows Pedro's lead. He finishes with 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 run.

Now comes the rested bullpen's test. Manny Aybar starts off. K's the first man he faces. But then Orlando Palmeiro gets a triple. RBI single follows by Adam Everett, lead cut to 3-2.

It appear the Mets are going to have to go into every late inning game with about a 10 run lead.

Biggio grounds to third and sacrifices. Two outs. Tying run in scoring position for Bagwell. Struck out on controversial call in 5th with the bases loaded to end the inning and 3-6 with a homer against Aybar, aye carumba. But he grounds out to 3rd and the inning is over, Aybar escapes catastrophic damage.

Ok Mets, we need about 5 runs this inning to save us from our bullpen.

Piazza comes to the plate. 0-3 so far in the game. Hitting .150 with one meaningless homer and RBI combination. I haven't seen a man sink this far, this fast since, oh, Carlos Baerga or Roberto Alomar. One pitch later, he's 0 for 4 on a hard hit liner. Those are the breaks. Koo Koo Kachoo is warming up in pen. Mets go down in order.

Castro in to catch (thank christ) -

Ensberg hits a lead off double putting the tying run on second. He's 3 for 3 today but can never live down getting thrown out by Piazza even though he stole on him successfully later in the game. Roseanne Barr could steal second base on Piazza's arm. Lane hits to the ball to rightfield, Diaz tried to make shoestring catch and blew it! Tie ball game, Lane is the go ahead run on third base. Aybar's dreadful line: 1 IP, 4 hits 2 runs (lead run in scoring position) well done Aybar! ERA up to 9.64 by game's end in an effort to join Looper and DeJean with double digit ERAs for the bullpen.

Koo is coming in. He hasn't given up a run in three games: Boom! Vizcaino hits ground rule double, scoring Lane. What is that like 5 extra base hits in the last six batters? Well no, it's four extra base hits given up in an inning of work. Astros 4 Mets 3 before the Mets bullpen even gets one out in the 8th! Koo one pitch and out. I pitch like a walrus, koo koo kachoo.

Hey kids, We knew the bullpen was going to be a nightmare so thanks for proving the world right.

Hernandez in to face Ausmus after three straight extra base hits to start the inning. Hernandez does the job, 1-2-3. Two runs too late but at least Hernandez, who will eventually earn the victory, gets the job done. Three and a third innings pitched this season without a run surrendered and six strikeouts. Doing it for the 40-something crowd.

Bottom of the 8th. Mank deep flyout to start it off.

*****DISASTER ALERT*****: Mike DeJean and his 15.43 ERA warming up in the bullpen. Diaz up to bat: walks as the tying run on base. Marlon Anderson to pinch hit: base hit into right, Diaz gets to third. He's fast, aggressive maaaaan. Maybe these should be caled the GO GO METS. Diaz's mad dash around the basepaths almost makes up for this fielding flub in rightfield last inning.

Now John Franco is up in the Astros bullpen. Nice one. We could use the extra five or six runs.

Reyes up. Radio broadcasters impressed Bloomberg still at the stadium watching the game to see if the Mets come back. This guy is the mayor of NYC for crissakes - doesn't he have any work to do on the middle of a Monday afternoon? -

Reyes hits back to the box, Anderson goes in straight and hard on Everett to try and break up the double play and Reyes is safe at first beating out the throw and scoring Diaz! Reyes then steals second to get into scoring position. Whew! Speed, baby, huge factor. Matsui lines single to center field, Reyes scores! Matsui's second RBI of day and Mets take lead 5-4, Matsui gets to 2nd on the errant throw home.

Beltran intentionally walked to get to Castro. The way Piazza is hitting, it's not JUST a defensive move getting him out of there.

*****BIGGER DISASTER ALERT*****: Bradon Looper now the lone man warming up in the bullpen!

Castro pops up in shallow RF and Biggio and Lane miscommunicate and the ball drops in safely, Matsui scores, Beltran to third and look who's coming to dinner! John Franco coming in, Mets ahead 6-4 and for the first time since '89 Franco in Shea as something other than a Met. 44 years old and lovingly, the home side boos him.

You have to wonder which is worse at this point, the Mets bullpen or the Astro outfield. Jason Lane has pretty much blown this game all on his own.

Franco pitches to Floyd. Oh, how about a three homer to send Franco back to whatever hole he crawled out of! Just as good: two run single for Cliff Floyd! Mets lead 8-4. Hmmmm. Enough for Looper to hold?

This is the Mets second straight 5 run 8th inning. Yup, Franco out of there after just one batter. Hometown return: 0 IP, 1 hit, no help.

Looper won't have a save chance with this lead so perhaps the pressure will be off...all he has to do is get three outs before he gives up 4 runs. We aren't asking for much here.

Ok, Everett is the first guy up, 2 for 4 on the day. Grounds to short. Yo! One down, two to go. Craig Biggo steps in. 1 for 3 with a walk. Two nice pitching duels in two consecutive days and tomorrow Ishii faces Clemens. Will Ishii have more walks than Clemens has strikeouts? Will Clemens bean Piazza and if he does, will anyone care any more?

Hooof! Looper strikes out Biggio on a slider lost in the late afternoon shadows. Pedro on the top stop of the dugout leading the cheers. I can't believe I ever hated this guy just because he mouthed off about Piazza beating up his fellow skinny Dominican Mota in spring training against the Dodgers a few years back but doing nothing when Clemens threw the chunk of bat at him in the World Series...

Bagwell up. One out to go....

Grounder to Wright - ballgame is over. Looper has a 1-2-3 inning, Mets have their second straight. Looper's ERA is now halved to 18.00.

Ed Coleman points out Floyd is 6 for 12 against lefties so far this season. Cliff says it's a myth that lefties can't hit lefties. Just keep your shoulder in rather than opening your stance up.

Marlon Anderson 3 for 5 as a pinch hitter. Piazza is Mister Irrelevent again in Mets second victory.

Many heroes today. Much speed. Two wins in the bag. Next up: Roger Clemens.

As always, the daily roundup for the rest of the baseball world can be found over at Sports Amnesia, King of the Deferential Utterances.


New Mets Are Virgins No More

It took them six games to do it but the 2005 New Mets finally won their first game of the season, calming the critics, halting the hyperventilating and bashing the hated Atlanta Braves at Turner Field all in one wonderful afternoon.

Although the final score was 6-1, for the first 7 innings there was every indication that this would be another trademark Met loss in what was swiftly becoming the most disappointing season in recent memory. Sure, Pedro Martinez was pitching masterfully again, dueling reformed closer John Smoltz through seven innings but still behind 1-0 even though he'd only surrendered two hits all game.

And Carlos Beltran had been struck out swinging twice by Smoltz already as the Mets entered that now famous 8th, gagging on a 1 for 12 streak at the plate in Atlanta.

And whilst Smoltz had already rung up 15 K's, a rather remarkable feat in itself considering that it tied his mark for strikeouts that he'd set 13 years before, the tension in Met fans built up inning after scoreless inning, the inevitability of doom seemed in the top of the 8th, almost ripe with potential. Coming home at 0-6 for the season was the dreadful possibility on the Met horizon, a season shattered before it began, the hype deflated to an Opening Day Shea of boos and catcalls.

But then, the other New Met, the Man the new franchise's future was being built around, arrived to do what he was purportedly being paid to do, which lead this franchise out of the Land of Mediocrity they'd dwelling in for the the last several years and onward to their future.

In the top of the 8th, after Jose Reyes singled to lead it off, the questioning of Willie Randolph reached its zenith when he elected to have Miquel Cairo bunt Reyes over one base, playing for the tying run on the road rather than the wining run. Desperate moves indeed and if it blew up in his face yet again, imagine the uproar that would greet him the following day.

Instead, with Reyes on second, one out and Smoltz having thrown 112 pitches, Carlos Beltran lifted the 113th pitch, a dramatic two run homerun to give the Mets their first lead since the 9th inning of Opening Day in Cincinnati, some 44 innings later.

And with that, the veil on this new squad was lifted and the 2005 Mets were virgins no more.

Smoltz was immediately pulled for Tom Martin and Cliff Floyd responded with a homerun to make it 3-1. Doug Mientkiewicz followed that with a blast that almost made it back to back to back homeruns but instead settled for a double, which chased Martin and brought Ramon Colon in. Colon was greeted by David Wright with a two run blast that brought the Mets ahead 5-1 and just like that, the season was saved, the floodgates were opened and all of the blundering of the last five games was forgotten and forgiven.

Ever so slightly lost in this redeeming drama was the fact that Pedro Martinez too did exactly what he was signed as a free agent from the Red Sox to do. He defeated the Braves ace in Smoltz, outdueled a possible Hall of Famer and pitched a complete game two hitter, retiring the final 16 batters he faced to earn both his and the Mets first victory of the season.

"We needed a big performance from me or someone like me. I took it personally. I wanted to pick up my team. ... Everybody was getting antsy. I like to take the responsibility." said the Mighty Pedro.

And slightly lost in this cataclysmic victory was the irony that these new Mets did it without old Met Piazza ever entering the game.

Sat out again, the second time in 6 games this season, Mike Piazza was admirably replaced by Ramon Castro and was never called upon to enter the game. Appropriate perhaps that Piazza sat in the dugout as the Mets began to define their season and Willie Randolph could smoke the victory cigar Mike had nothing to do with other than having provided the cigar to begin with.

In fact, there were three changes to the regular Mets lineup: Piazza was replaced by Castro, the Kaz Man was replaced by veteran Miquel Cairo and Victor Diaz was replaced in rightfield by Eric Valent. Those three hitters combined to go 5 for 10. In fact, through the first seven innings of the game, these three were the only Mets other than Reyes to get on base.

There were also a few hiccups and stutters again, acts of idiocy that could have been momumental had they cost the Mets the game, like fifth inning when third base coach Manny Acta put on the brakes for Jose Reyes rounding third far too late causing Reyes to be picked off.

But otherwise, the Mets were everything they were we'd hoped they'd be before this stuttering run through the first five disappointing games.

In a way, you almost wished Willie had dialed up Braden Looper's number for the top of the 9th, just so he could put the Braves down 1-2-3 and get the monkey off his back as well. Then again, with the way the Mets had started, there was no point pushing their luck. Pedro deserved the complete game shutout and perhaps tomorrow, Looper will finally get the chance to redeem himself.


Shallow Grave Gets Deeper: 0-5

Well, you've got to hate joining the chorus of howling critics but let's face it. Five straight losses to start the season is a bad audition. If Next Year Is Now, does that mean that this season is already dead and buried?

There's something Amazin' about being the ONLY team left in baseball without a win in 2005.

Why can't we be more like the 2005 Braves, who have now won four in a row, stand in their customary first place atop the NL East and managed this despite scoring only 14 runs in their first five games? The Mets have scored all of 16 runs in their first five games and still have nothing to show for it.

Why can't we be more like the 2005 Chicago White Sox who, despite hitting 4 for 24 with runners in scoring position (an abysmal .166 average), still managed to win three of their first four games? In the Saturday evening's 6-3 loss to the Braves the Mets were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and are now 5 for 38 (.132) so far for the season.

Why can't we even be more like the Washington Nationals? Even they have won three games already this season and each victory was of the come-from-behind variety. They won one game down 3-2 in the 8th by a 7-3 margin. The following day, they tied the game in the 8th and won it in the 10th and tonight, won in the 10th again after coming from behind yet again. The Mets, on the other hand, haven't seen a lead since Bradon Looper's atomic meltdown on Opening Day. That's 36 consecutive innings of playing from behind. The Mets fall behind and they stay behind.

Hey, the Mets weren't even the only team to blow a lead in devastating fashion to lose on Opening Day. They're just the only team to do so and not bounce back. The San Diego Padres opened 2005 with a lead going into the 9th inning at Coors Field and the indominable Trevor Hoffman set to get the save. Hoffman, like Looper, imploded and gave up 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning as the Padres went from winning 10-8 to losing 12-10. The Padres won two games of their next three games.

So there isn't a prominent excuse the Mets can make that some other team hasn't already overcome themselves this season.

Tomorrow, Pedro takes the mound again and either the cycle will be broken or the mounting pressure will break this team's season before they even play their first home game.

The funny thing is, a few days ago, you could take note of Smoltz's 32.00 ERA and his horrific first start and think to yourself, hey, that's great, Smoltz has lost his stuff as a starter and we can take advantage of him. That's how winners think. But the other way of looking at it, the Met Fan way, is that well, Smoltz started his first game of the season poorly which probably means he's going to come back twice as strong this second time around.

Let's face it. It doesn't really matter who the Mets face. Not if it's Smoltz, nor Pettitte nor Roger Clemens. These names are only built-in excuses for people who are looking for excuses to justify losing. The Mets don't discriminate by losing "only" to the aces. They've lost games where they've faced the likes of Aaron Harang and Horacio Ramirez so we really shouldn't bother making distinctions between facing stiffs or aces for our first victory of the year.

You think it's frightening going into the season 0-5? Imagine that Cincinnati, the team that swept us to start the season, have lost two in a row to the Astros, the team we are open our home season against in two days. The team that beat up on the team that beat up on us.

It isn't time to worry about who we face, not which team, not which pitcher. They all lose during the season eventually and if the Mets were to defeat Smoltz, Pettitte and Clemens in a row, how long will we be talking about the 0-5 start?

On the other hand, yes, 0-5 can easily become 0-8, the hole can easily get deeper and the Mets could make up one morning and find they've dug a hole to China.

As Kaley notes in Flushing Local:

Fifteen teams since 1980 lost six or more games to start the year. 70-92 was their average total. Nine of them went on to lose a seventh game, averaging 64-98 at year end. The 1983 Astros lost nine from the start and ended eight games over .500 at 85-77. Of course, the 2003 Tigers went 0-9 on their way to a near-historic 43-119 mark.

We are all well-versed in what happened in 1962: 9 straight losses to start the season and a 40-120 record by the end.

If you think it can't get that bad, just remember six days ago what you'd have thought of the chance of starting the season 0-5.


3 Down, 6 To Go

We can cackle at will about 1964, the last time the Mets opened their season so auspiciously. But imagine, as we no doubt will, that three losses in a row might only be the tip of the iceberg. Yes indeed,there's a horizon of hopelessness looming out there just waiting to be discovered.

Back in 1962 the Mets lost their first 9 games in a row. Then they won a game, their first ever, and then they lost 3 more in a row.

If the Mets can't win with Zambrano and Santiago in the first two games coming up against the Braves, they will have to pin their hopes on winning one of their next three games thereafter which would be facing Smoltz, then at home to face Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. That could be 8 in a row, one off the mark. The rabble would be deafening by then.

What will be interesting now is listening to the cooing of reassurance from Willie and the Boys as they try to convince themselves as well as the Met Public that this season isn't already teetering on the cusp of disaster, fast on it's way to running off the rails with hysterical pitching performances and sagging shoulders.

We've had a sniff of the meal Omar and Willie have been cooking up for the last several months and it smells so far, like we're going to need alot more alchohol to wash it down with. Alot more palliative red eye to help us forget the silly, euphoric halcyon hours leading up to the season when we were willing to sweep the bullpen and the weak rotation after Pedro under the carpet. Granted, we didn't forsee Trachsel and Benson on the DL so soon but injuries are not excuses, they are

I can tell it's a struggle to find the superlatives and optimism to fight off the nagging sense of dread. It's apparent when the best thing you can say after getting swept by the miserable Reds is "hey, at least Ishii gave the pen a rest after Glavine gave them two games worth of work in one night".

No, the telling doom came quickly. The Mets were nothing but accomodating in that sense. Ishii didn't waste any time walking the first two batters and the other Kaz in the lineup didn't waste any time blowing a hard hit double play grounder. So when the Reds were done in the first inning, when they'd chalked up two runs without a hit, it was though the Mets had asked the Reds to spell out DOOM and then spotted
them the double oh in the middle.

Like Piazza said, we can't lose all of them. Not all at once anyway.


I have to admit, I was a bit shocked to see Piazza beg out of the game. Yeah, there's the old day game after a night game being too hard on the old backstop's knees adage, but just this morning I'd read Willie saying "It's too early to be thinking about resting," when asked about giving Piazza the day off.

Granted, I make no bones about not being a Piazza fan but christ, it's only the third game of the season and he needs a rest already? Way to lead by example.

At least he wasn't too hobbled to allow us the chance to witness his pinch hit at bat in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, two outs and 5 runs down. A chance to redeem himself. Oh yeah. When the chips are down, long fly ball to right field but not long enough. Ball game over. I guess that's what happens when you're hitting .200 for the season three games in. Wonder how many MVP votes he gets this season.


Mike DeJean saw his ERA drop from it's dizzying heights to a majestic 27.00 after today's outing which was a scoreless third of an inning. He mentioned that it wasn't his calf, nor the confusion over Willie's double switch blunder that caused last night's debacle rather the fact that he hadn't pitched in a week.

And if we want to be optimistic, here's something to mull over:

If you toss out the embarassing outings of DeJean and Looper, the rest of the Mets bullpen so far has pitched 6 1/3 innings, have allowed only 4 hits, 1 earned run and walked only two while striking out 10. Lost in all the hysteria, at least some part of the pitching other than Pedro is functioning.

And therein lies are hope. Finding the sane, quiet moments in this sweeping, hysterical pressure that builds with every loss. There is always tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that.


0-2: Has The Love Boat Sprung A Leak?

Cover your eyes kids and don't look now, but the Mets have now started a season 0-2 for the first time since 1997.

Whereas Day One saw their bullpen collapse, Day Two saw their starting pitcher collapse. Day Three, now that the extent of the ace factor on their staff has been exhausted, will see the recently-acquired Kazuhisa Ishii try to save the Mets' little love boat from sinking to 0-3 before it ever leaves port and gets home. However, Ishii's career numbers against the Reds are not very encouraging -- 7.82 ERA and an 0-2 record in three starts and merely 12 2/3 innings.

Women and children first, Herr Kapitan! Before we start to panic completely, ah, there is the sweet odor of hope as Ishii has an 11-2 record in 15 April starts in his three big league seasons.

And hey, if he fails, we can all have a nice laugh when concluding that the Mets have not been 0-3 since 1964, when the franchise was still the league's laughingstock.

But let's not throw in the towel just yet. This loss wasn't even in heart-breaking fashion and we have the two to compare like bookends for us to comtemplate: which is worse, a punch in the solar plexus or a side kick to the groin? And from what angle will it come tomorrow?

New manager Willie Randolph, whose victory cigar remains unlit, can thank Joe Randa for keeping him winless in his first two games manager. Randa, who hit the game-winning homer off Looper two days ago, hit a grand slam last night and now has 7 RBIs in two games to lead the Majors. Well, he can also thank Mike DeJean, but we will deal with that little defeasance of a debut when we come to it.

Besides concluding his first two games without a win and on the heels of an ill-advised and possibly even goofy shift against Junior and Sean Casey that yielded a less-than-endearing result, Randolph also suffered his first minor embarrassment as a manager. In the bottom of the eighth, he tried to make a double switch by putting Chris Woodward at first base and Mike DeJean on the mound, but umpires ruled the attempt unsuccessful, forcing the pitcher's spot to come up in the top of the ninth instead of Woodward.

Not that it mattered anyway. DeJean, in YET ANOTHER WORRISOME DISPLAY for Met hopes, followed Looper's horrific performance with a quiet little disaster of his own to make the perfect pair of late inning disaster for the Mets bullpen which was otherwise flawless. DeJean was the culprit who gave up the grand slam to Joe Randa and has the second highest ERA at 36.00 after closer Looper's ERA, which is so horrific they can't even calculate it. This might lead the skeptic to believe that any game the Mets aren't winning by 10 runs come the 8th inning is probably going to turn into a stomach-turning Met loss. Oye! Is there a bullpen in da house?

After Pedro's glistening performance was fed to the pigs, Glavine threw 37 pitches in the first inning alone which, as you can imagine for a guy at his advanced age, meant the bullpen was going to get alot of work in last night0. In the end, he worked only three and two-thirds innings, giving up nine hits, all of them singles. A dainty, yet unfathonably ineffective performance for a number two in the rotation kind of guy.

And following the sickening debacle of seeing David Wright ground into two rally killing double plays followed by Eric Valent's invisibly uninspirational 0-3 performance in the 8 spot in Game One, Randolph, to his credit, heeded the Gods of Common Sense and started rookie Victor Diaz in right last night which is what should have been done on Opening Day. Eric Valent is an AMC Pacer compared to the potential Jaguar of Victor Diaz, both at the plate and on the base paths.

So, David Wright was moved back up to batting sixth, followed by left-handed-hitting Doug Mientkiewicz and then Diaz. Result? Diaz, 3 for 4 and Wright 2 for 4 with a homer. Mank, slotted down to 7th instead of 6th, also homered.

It can't be said, even when looking through the rosiest coloured glasses that 0-2 is a good start. It sucks, it's making everyone's skin crawl, it fails to answer the debacle of Game One, it makes us worry before the season is hardly under way, and worst of all, it means another round of the self-indulgent idiotic happy chatter of Mike and the Maddog who seem to revel in the Mets tribulations.

But what the hell, these are the Cincinnati Reds, after all. Surely when we face the Atlanta Braves, things will get easier. Ha!


Jose Who?

Now that Kris Benson is on the DL for perhaps as long as three weeks, it appears some guppy going by the name of Jose Santiago is going to take his place on the mound when the Mets face the Braves next Monday.

Hey, good plan. Almost as good as trading Ginter just before Benson went down. Very prescient work. Oh christ, we shouldn't bash the management for their first major error of the spring but really. Santiago is a career reliever -- no starts in 225 Major League appearances. He has pitched with the Royals, his original club, the Phillies and, in 2003, the Indians. His 1-3 record in 2003 brought his career record to 17-22. His career ERA is 4.39.

Santiago didn't pitch in organized baseball last season.

This sounds like JUST the guy to take the mound against the Braves.


Well for one more night anyway, the Mets will have a decent pitcher on the mound as Tom Glavine takes the reigns. He will face the Reds new pitcher, lefty Eric Milton. Milton is a notorious gopherball pitcher having given up a league-leading 43 last season and it should be interesting to see how he fares in the pinball machine-like environs of the Great American Ball Park.

Let's hope he gives up like 20 homers because that way, Glavine won't be held hostage in the victory department by an incapable bullpen.

In any case, I predict a big comeback by the Mets in Game Two of the Season. Something to erase the intestinal cramps caused by Opening Day.


Two former Mets got off to a rollicking start to the season last night.

Edgardo Alfonzo, who lost 16 pounds during the offseason after ballooning up like a pig before a roast last season, went 3 for 4 in the Giants' victory over the Dodgers with a single, double and two-run homer.

Scott Kazmir, the name we can never forget, suffered a similar fate to Pedro after he threw five innings of 3 hit ball, allowed one run and walked a pair with two strikeouts only to see his bullpen blow it. The Devil Rays are 0-2 to start the season.


Couldn't help but wonder, after listening to Mariano Rivera blow Pavano's lead in the 9th against the Red Sox and then hearing Jeter blast the game winning homer in the bottom of the 9th, just how the Mets might have done last night if THEY'D had a bottom of the 9th to come back in.

Scheduled up would have been Mank, Wright and Valent. Soooo, maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Lastly but not leastly, for the rest of the MLB summaries in quixotic fashion, have a look to our great Brother in the Sky, Sports Amnesia for the rain and dirt and mud.